Tour de France 2012 stage three
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Much was expected at Sagan’s debut Tour de France, yet he managed to even exceed expectations with a sensational three stage wins and a resounding victory in the green jersey competition.
The win that most epitomised the panache with which he rode that Tour was stage three.
The uphill finish in Boulogne-sur-Mer was perfectly suited to his punchy sprint, yet the distance by which he won – several bike-lengths ahead of nearest challenger Edvald Boasson Hagen – was what truly astonished.
Most memorable of all was the ‘running man’ celebration he showcased while crossing the line, a sign of both the unordinary charisma and playfulness, not to mention jaw-dropping temerity, of this 22-year-old prodigy.
At this early stage of his career Sagan was still known primarily as a sprinter, so it took everyone by surprise when he attacked out from a group of 10 to claim a solo victory at Ghent-Wevelgem.
Sagan could have been confident of winning in a sprint given the make-up of that group, but he is the kind of rider to respond to his instincts, which here told him to attack with 4km to go – a move that was categorically justified when he crossed the line early 30 seconds ahead of the rest.
Or perhaps he just wanted time to perform a few wheelies as he crossed the line? Either way, this was the Slovakian’s first Classic victory of his career, and a formidable sign of what he was capable of.
Tour of California overall victory 2015
The one thing thought to be beyond Sagan’s capabilities is to compete over genuine mountains, but at the 2015 Tour of California he once again defied expectations to win a stage race that had otherwise been dominated by climbers.
Having built up enough time via bonus seconds in the sprints and victory in the time-trial to hold the overall lead, Sagan somehow dug in on the fearsome Mount Baldy to finish sixth on the queen stage, ahead of esteemed climbing specialists Robert Gesink and Haimar Zubeldia, and enough to keep him within overall contention.
Then, on a dramatic final day he gained enough bonus seconds to regain his overall lead from Julian Alaphilippe, and seal overall victory.
On paper he had to right to win this race, but few feats are beyond this particular superstar.
Watch: Peter Sagan’s S-Works Tarmac Ultralight
World Championships Road Race 2015
In hindsight it seems remarkable that Peter Sagan could be thought of as anything other than an all-conquering legend of the sport, but by autumn 2015, having gone two years without winning either a Tour de France stage or a Classic, there was growing alarm at his tendency to finish second (which he did 27 times between 2015-16, compared with 17 wins).
We were all aware of his immense talent, but there were genuine doubts about his killer instinct – did he have it in him to win the very biggest races?
That question was answered categorically in Richmond, USA, September 2015, when Sagan finally ended his draught of high-profile wins by triumphing in the biggest of them all – the World Championships.
The way in which he won was spectacular, too.
Rather than wait for the sprint, he exploded out of the peloton with a devastating surge that no-one, not even his nemesis Greg Van Avermaet, could follow.
After cresting the short cobbled climb, he soloed the remaining two-and-a-half kilometres to complete a victory that would confirm his genius and prompt a turnaround in his fortunes.
Tour of Flanders 2016
Two runner-up finishes in 2013 behind Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders and E3 Harelbeke, as well as victory at Ghent-Wevelgem, suggested that Sagan was the Swiss rider’s heir apparent to the title of king of the Classics. But it wasn’t until three years later that he finally triumphed in a cobbled Monument.
And, typically for Sagan, he did so in style.
He caught out many of the key contenders – including Cancellara – by forming part of a three-man early move.
Then, having gone solo over the Paterberg, he not only held off a charging Cancellara chase in the finishing pursuit, but put even more time into him to win by 25 seconds.
It was a huge victory, rendered all the more symbolic by the rainbow stripes he wore as he crossed the line (not to mention the obligatory wheelie), and the fact it was his former assailant Cancellara who lay in his wake.
Sagan had already been crowned World Champion – now he really did appear to be the best in the world.
Tour de France 2016 stage eleven
Even during his winless streak at the Tour, Sagan would regularly astound with audacious rides and stunning attacks – this was the first time that such a move was rewarded with a victory.
Capitalising on the vicious crosswinds that battered the riders as they headed to Montpellier, he, along with teammate Maciej Bodnar and the Sky duo of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, burst out from off the front of the peloton.
It was a majestic sight – the green jersey of Sagan working in tandem with the yellow jersey of Froome to unexpectedly wreak havoc over the race.
There was to be no stopping such a powerful quartet, and similarly no stopping Sagan from comfortably out-sprinting the others when they reached the finishing straight.
World Championship Road Race 2016
The World Championships Road Race can be something of a lottery, with different routes drawn up each year with sometimes significantly varying parcours, and with an unusually high number of riders vying for victory.
So to win it two years in a row, as Sagan did, takes some doing.
The 2016 course in Doha, Qatar was almost the polar opposite of the year before in Richmond, with baking heat and winds replacing attrition and punchy climbs as the main obstacles.
Yet Sagan was just as dominant, first making the decisive split in the crosswinds, then proving that, even having developed so much as a rider, he still possessed that killer final kick to win a bunch sprint ahead of sprinters as fast as Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen.
The result put him within one win from the all-time record of three men’s World Road Race titles, and ensured another 12 thrilling months of Sagan riding in the rainbow jersey.